Social media changes fast. According to Zac Johnson, Head of Youth Marketing at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, within a short time the life of a social media channel (from the first time you hear about it to the last time you use it) will be two years. At this velocity, creating a social media strategy for each medium will be futile, if it's not already. Even today, social media strategies look less like long-term plans and more like clumps of short-term tactics.
It's not a game plan, it's an attitude.
With the social landscape feeling more like a tilt-a-whirl than solid ground, it's far better for a non-profit to adopt a social media philosophy than a strategy. A philosophy is flexible enough to withstand changes as mediums morph and new contenders appear. So here are some digital proverbs to live by that will work across all social media.
- Social media is an engagement tool, not a broadcast medium. You must get involved in any conversation you start if you expect it to have a life.
- Claim your brand in every new medium that comes along, but play where you find that your supporters dwell. You don't have to try to be everywhere. Go with big channels that work for you: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ are hot now. When something shiny and new comes along, jump on it. When a medium loses it's cool and effectiveness, jump ship before you're looked at as passé.
- Use each channel for it's strengths. Facebook has the intimacy of close friends. It's powerful for fundraising and landing volunteers. Twitter has immediacy. Use it to start conversations about cause news or to engage supporters with hashtags at live events. When a new social medium pops up, quickly figure out how it can add value to your cause and constituents before applying serious time nurturing it.
- Teach your supporters and staff your cause's story. People are gonna talk. And you want them to. Don't worry about the exact wording of the message: If you teach everyone your cause's story well, they'll make it their story.
- Connect your social mediums. On any given channel, create a place where supporters can click and connect to any of your other social channels, including your main site, blog, etc. Supporters who find you on Facebook may spend most of their time on Google+. You want to make sure they know they can connect and communicate with you through the medium of their choice.
- Make commenting convenient. Buttons to like, favorite and comment should be conveniently located on posts, pages and any public content.
- Engage influencers on social media. Anyone can click a button and follow. That's the problem: Everyone does click a button and follow, then most forget you. Influencers, those well-connected power users, have big networks of avid followers. Check out supporter profiles and bios on social media and identify the influencers you need to engage with.
A social philosophy is based on what works across all social mediums. So when a new one pops up and an old one slumps away, you won't have to waste time figuring out a new strategy.
This article is published as part of NTEN's Member Appreciation Month.